Summer is here. It’s a lot of people’s favourite season, but I find it annoying. It’s just too fucking hot and humid. Walking outside I’m hit by a wall of moistness. And I haven’t even talked about how it makes the whole of New York City smell like rubbish as all the bins sit and sweat on the curbside waiting to be picked up. Surviving summer is hard work. But there’s one thing that makes it bearable. Outside gigs. And there’s a shitload of them.
When a show is open air there’s a totally different atmosphere. The intimacy and visceral characteristics of most shows are replaced with a much more natural feel, and not just because there is no roof and you can see the sky and the trees.
I think this is how music was supposed to be enjoyed. Though the stage setups are often temporary and the sound can be temperamental, there is a buzz because shows are even more unpredictable. Plus, as someone who has aged out of his crowd surfing days (sorry to anyone who got my ass in their face) there’s nothing quite like rolling out a blanket, grabbing a beer, and having a lie down to enjoy a gig.
So what am I looking forward to this year then? That is the point of this article. Like most cities New York has a thriving program of, sort of free, live music. Over the years I have spent evenings in Prospect Park enjoying Sylvan Esso, Beirut, Rhye and Dr. Dog. Just a few weeks ago The National and Courtney Barnett opened this years program. This year will be the turn of Nilüfer Yanya, Mac DeMarco, and Picky Bastards favorite Sampa the Great. I’m excited about all 3 for different reasons:
- Nilüfer Yanya has put out one of my favourite albums of the year. It is full of guitar fuzz and pop anthems.
- For 2014 and 2015, Mac DeMarco’s albums 2 and Salad Days, were synonymous with summer for me, and soundtracked pretty much every chilled out summer day.
- Sampa the Great is a special artist with fantastic lyricism and joyful music. I cannot wait for her new album.
Beyond going to shows, there is also all the live festival coverage. If you have tuned into Glastonbury (or have been lucky enough to go), you will have hopefully witnessed some truly sensational live shows: Stormzy, IDLES, and Lizzo to name a few. The vast throbbing crowds that they commanded would not be the same in a club show or even arena. Thankfully the BBC is piping this directly into our homes (or via the internet with a VPN for foreign transplants like me). I’m going to be making the most of that iPlayer 30-day window.
Though Glasto really is the big one, so many festivals get some form of TV coverage these days. Even if the lineup looks only okay at best, I will always have a soft spot for Reading and will dutifully tune in. At least for Royal Blood. So maybe I can even avoid going outside and just sit in my air-conditioned apartment and get my music fix.
Summer is here. And though I am going to be constantly sweating for the next 3 months, I am excited because there is an absolute glut of live music. And what else is summer for?
Words by Matt Paul